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Prolife Forum: Another Sensitive Question

by Catherine Frakas 27 May 2002

Another Sensitive Question QUESTION from Dave on July 18, 2002 These questions are mostly related to the information you supplied in answering Sara's question, which was from Christopher West's book 'Good News About Sex & Marriage: Answers to Your Honest Questions About Catholic Teaching':

Since it's the male orgasm that's inherently linked with the possibility of new life, the husband must never intentionally ejaculate outside of his wife's vagina (unintentional ejaculation involves no moral fault) Since the female orgasm, however, isn't necessarily linked to the possibility of conception, so long as it takes place within the overall context of an act of intercourse, it need not, morally speaking, be during actual penetration.

Question 1 (pertaining to the first quote above): When intercouse is accomplished within the guidelines of Natural Family Planning, is it permissible to engage in a dual-standing position, ejaculate with only a couple of inches or so of penetration, then withdraw? (In other words: we've already taken steps to lower the odds of conception, namely by targeting the sperm towards a currently infertile womb, so as long as there is some penetration during ejaculation, why not lower the odds further?
Question 2 (pertaining to the second quote above): If there is no longer penetration, then digitally, orally, or electro-mechanically stimulating the female to orgasm is (according to Webster) masturbation. So, my understanding is that the Catholic Church condones masturbation of the female in some situations. If this conduct is appropriate, then is it also permissible to masturbate one's wife to orgasm immediately before intercourse? It seems that this case would be equally within the context of an act intercourse.
Question 3: Is it morally permissible for the female to stimulate herself to orgasm immediately following intercourse? (Even the most dedicated husband may not be able to bring the proficiency and expediency his wife deserves and desires.)
Question 4: Since the female orgasm isn't necessarily linked to conception, why is it not permissible for the female to be masturbated by her husband even outside the context of intercourse? (It seems this could substitute (albeit poorly) for intercouse in the event that the man has a medical problem preventing him from acheiving an erection, for example.) I think answers to these boundary questions will more clearly elucidate the principles underlying Catholic teaching and will further my understanding and the understanding of others. I appreciate your consideration and your dedication to providing answers to (clueless?) individuals like me, who were not raised in a sufficiently orthodox Catholic setting.
Pax Christi, Dave
Also, a bonus question comes to mind regarding Connie's quote from 'Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services' by the National Conference on Catholic Bishops:
A female who has been raped should be able to defend herself against a potential conception from the sexual assault. If, after appropriate testing, there is no evidence that conception has occurred already, she may be treated with medications that prevent conception.
Bonus question: How is may be treated with medications that prevent conception morally different from contraception?
ANSWER by Mr. Troy Martz on August 18, 2002 Dave:
I will try to keep my answer brief -- though your questions are many and complicated. By necessity any answer I could give in this forum will never be extensive enough to cover all situations. I recommend that anyone interested in further discussion on this topic buy (and read) the book before asking additional questions.
I will answer your questions one at a time:
Answer 1. Positioning is not the real question. The real question is whether or not the couple are open to the possiblity of new life and whether they are totally giving everything they have to each other. Provided these conditions are true (the wife cannot give her fertility because this is her infertile time, NOT because she has chosen to withhold it from her husband), I can find no fault. There is the danger here of being so preoccupied with not getting pregnant that your fear prevents you from giving yourselves to each other.
Answer 2. The problem is that you have taken Mr. West's interpretation of Church teaching slightly out of context. Masterbation for its own sake is inherently disordered. However, Mr. West's position is that within the context of normal marital relations (before, during, or after) the husband stimulating his wife can be a loving act as part of his total gift of himself. We must remember that the goal is total gift of self to the other. By seeking pleasure out for its own sake we become selfish rather than self giving.
Answer 3. See my answer #2. This could not be a gift of the husband to his wife if he is not involved.
Answer 4. Again, is the goal sexual pleasure or gift of self. I don't have a certain answer here but am inclined to suggest that couples who find themselves in such a state consider making a willing sacrifice of their sexual relations. Such self sacrifice, combined with prayer and fasting, can bring much grace to the world. (Consider dedicating your sacrifice for the strengthening of those whose vocations require celibacy.)
Bonus Question If you reread my original response, you might catch a hint that I am not comfortable with the letter from the Bishop's conference either. My problem is that we cannot know for sure whether we are preventing contraception or preventing implantation. Just because there is no evidence that conception has occurred doesn't mean that it hasn't -- it only means that we may not be able to detect the new life yet. It is almost impossible to prove a negative, we can only prove that we haven't detected it using the detection methods we currently have available.
You asked about the moral difference. From the doctor's point of view there is none, both ordinary and emergency contraceptives are wrong. However, from the woman's point of view she did not intend to have sex outside of marriage while using contraceptives. Though that does not make it morally right, it does mitigate some or all of her guilt in the situation. Those who try to persuade her to use this form of contraceptive should be extremely careful. They could be laying the foundation for her seeking an abortion later if the emergency contraceptives don't work.
We should keep all involved in such situations in our prayers.
Pax Christi, Troy
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